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The Big Roundtable publishes stories that need to be told. Read more

New York, NY Nonfiction
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This project was successfully funded on April 22, 2013.

The Big Roundtable publishes stories that need to be told.

New York, NY Nonfiction
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About this project

The problem with publishing

There are writers with big, true-life stories to tell. There are readers who might want to see them. These two groups of people too often never meet. For centuries standing between them was a gatekeeper—an agent, an editor, a publisher—who decided what people would want to read based on little more than the gatekeeper’s gut, a hunch, an instinct, a feeling. This meant that too many writers were left without readers. And too many readers left having never been told a story that might have mattered. But now anyone can be a writer. And readers have so many stories to choose from. When people have too many choices, however, they often choose nothing at all. We at The Big Roundtable want to fix that. We want to be a bridge that connects writers and readers and we want to do it in a way that seems as old as story telling itself: by sharing stories, a friend at a time.

How the Big Roundtable works

The Big Roundtable is looking for stories that need to be told. We are an authors’ cooperative through which writers of nonfiction stories too long for most magazines, and too short for most publishers, can find their readers. 

Every week we post a new, original nonfiction novella on our website. We send word of that story to our mailing list, asking people to open the link, take a look at the preview of that story and, if they like it and want to continue reading, to buy it, with the knowledge that the writer will get a dollar for every story sold. If the story moves them, excites them, if they love the story, we ask them to share it, via email with three friends.

Why only three? 

And why through email? 

Think about how you choose what you read, and how often you make that choice because a friend, someone you know and who knows you, says, You have to read this.

We will, of course, disseminate word of our stories through social media. But the core of our mission is to replicate that moment in which stories get shared, again and again and again.

We will be offering subscriptions, in return for which we will offer not only stories but access to Big Roundtable and author events.

What sets us apart is something that is core to our mission: we want to study how people find, read, fall in love with a share stories. Our aim to become the research lab of the longform revival, to gather data that will at long last illuminate what happens when one friend feels compelled to share a story with another.

And, most importantly, we want to share that data, to make it part of an ongoing conversation among writers, editors and readers.

Where do the stories come from?

The Big Roundtable invites writers to submit finished pieces to But rather than have an editor or maybe two decide on a story’s worth, we instead present the first 1000 words of that story to a small group of our members and ask them to read—not as editors, or writers, or journalists, but as readers. If any of them finds the story so compelling that they want to share it, we send that same passage to another small group of readers, to see if the story is indeed capturing an audience. 

If it does, only then—only after those readers have expressed their excitement—do we set about fine-tuning, iterating, editing the story so that, in collaboration with the author, we can make it as memorable and compelling as it can be. And when those stories are ready, we make them available for sale, with the guarantee that the author will get a dollar for every story told.

Why are you doing this?

There is a revolution taking place in journalism. With it have come possibilities for writers who despaired of ever finding a way to make a living at their craft. 

Writers are now freed from the constraints of convention in telling their stories and from the commercial needs of editors and publishers, who determine what tales get told.

That, in turn, means a new era of creativity for authors of narrative nonfiction—new writers, new stories, new audiences waiting for a friend to say, Here’s a story you’ll want to read.

The Big Roundtable is more than a digital publishing platform; it is a movement, one that we believe can expand the possibilities for writers, and readers.

Where will the money go?

Your generous donations will go toward helping fund the first six months of content for the Big Roundtable. We're planning to launch our project, and publish our first story, in the end of August 2013.

Who we are

We are a team that combines different skills and levels of experience, seasoned and young journalists, an engineer and an entrepreneur: Michael Shapiro, Mike Hoyt, Anna Hiatt, Rashmi Raman, Anna Codrea-Rado.

Risks and challenges

The risk is that a community does not coalesce around our project. But we have spent months testing the idea with a group of 50, to see how we can best create a cooperative that will work together to preview stories. We've built a prototype website, testing its functionality and ease of use. And we have also begun using various tools to test how people read and share.

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Funding period

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